NFL Nation: 2010 Week 17 Wrap-ups

Wrap-up: Texans 34, Jaguars 17

January, 2, 2011
Thoughts on the Texans' win against the Jaguars at Reliant Stadium.

What it means: The Jaguars finished 8-8 on a day when a win and a Colts’ loss could have landed them the AFC South title. Houston improved to 6-10, matching the worst record of the Gary Kubiak regime.

What I liked: The run games. The Jaguars pounded out 35 carries for 198 yards and a touchdown without Maurice Jones-Drew. But the Texans topped them with 37 carries for 244 yards and three touchdowns. Of that, 180 yards and two scores came from Arian Foster, the league’s rushing leader for the 2010 season. Houston's better balance was a big difference.

What I didn’t like, Jaguars edition: No sacks, no takeaways, no game-swinging special teams play. They needed more in those areas to offset a minimal passing game with Trent Edwards at the controls. They were just 1-for-10 on third down, though 3-of-3 on fourth down helped offset it a bit.

What I want to know: How extensive will the changes be? Reports say Gary Kubiak will remain in place, and I expect the Jaguars will stick with Jack Del Rio. But both teams need changes outside of that to get in better position to challenge the Colts in the division.

What’s next: Both owners will need to address the status of their coaches. Then we’ll hear about offseason surgeries, staff adjustments and plans heading towards a lockout and the draft.

Wrap-up: Chargers 33, Broncos 28

January, 2, 2011
A look at a meaningless game between the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos.

What it means: San Diego improved to 9-7, giving it a winning record and some consolation for missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005. Denver fell to 4-12.

Tomorrow’s talker: Has Tim Tebow done enough to become Denver’s starting quarterback in 2011? We won’t know that answer until after Denver hires a new coach, but Tebow did some good things in his third straight start. After a slow start, Tebow nearly led Denver to its second straight comeback win. Tebow moves the ball with his arm and his feet. He’s an exciting player and I think this three game experiment worked as well as could be expected.

Chargers’ running hope: Running back Ryan Mathews had 120 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Mathews was hurt for much of his rookie season, but he ran well when healthy. The future appears bright for Mathews, who San Diego drafted No. 12 overall.

What’s next: The Chargers will try to forget a season that included a lot of injuries and miscues on special teams. San Diego has a strong roster heading into next season. The Broncos will formally introduce legendary quarterback John Elway as the team’s new front-office leader and begins the process to replace Josh McDaniels. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday Elway will target Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.

Wrap-up: 49ers 38, Cardinals 7

January, 2, 2011
Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 38-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park in Week 17:

What it means: The Cardinals (5-11) emerged from this game with the fifth overall choice in the 2011 NFL draft after Denver lost to San Diego, ensuring the Broncos would pick ahead of Arizona. The 49ers (6-10) could wind up tied with Seattle for the seventh choice if the Seahawks also finish with a 6-10 record. A coin toss held at the scouting combine would break any tie for draft positioning. The Cardinals' poor showing on offense should prevent anyone from thinking rookie quarterback John Skelton should go into next season as a candidate to start.

Update on strength of schedule: The New York Giants' victory Sunday would leave Seattle with the tougher strength of schedule relative to San Francisco, should the Seahawks and 49ers tie in draft order. The 49ers played Philadelphia (10-6) and Green Bay (10-6) while the Seahawks played Chicago (11-5) and the Giants (10-6). All other opponents were the same.

What I liked: The 49ers' best players on offense made big plays. Vernon Davis got loose for a 59-yard touchdown reception. Ted Ginn Jr. caught a 37-yard scoring pass, providing what the 49ers expected to see throughout the season, but did not. Receiver Josh Morgan extended to make a grab for a 32-yard reception. Quarterback Alex Smith averaged 11.7 yards per attempt and Brian Westbrook scored twice as the 49ers built a 31-7 lead. On defense, the 49ers dominated even without injured inside linebacker Patrick Willis. Justin Smith, always a tough matchup for the Cardinals, padded his Pro Bowl credentials with three sacks. For Arizona, there wasn't much, but at least receiver Larry Fitzgerald factored more prominently into the offense.

What I didn't like: The Cardinals got blown out twice by a 49ers team that was bad enough to cost Mike Singletary his job as head coach. John Skelton passed for 92 yards on 25 attempts, taking four sacks to go with his 3.7-yard average per attempt. Richard Bartel came into the game and served up an interception for a touchdown.

Tomorrow's Talker: Which quarterbacks will be leading these teams next season? The 49ers will have a better idea once they hire a head coach. The Cardinals' leadership has had months to consider its options after failing to adequately prepare for life after Kurt Warner.

What's next: Both teams will be watching the playoffs from afar.

Wrap-up: Falcons 31, Panthers 10

January, 2, 2011
Wrapping up the Atlanta Falcons' 31-10 win against the Carolina Panthers.

What it means: The Falcons clinched the NFC South and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Panthers head home to start looking for a new coach and trying to figure out how they will use the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft.

What I liked: The way the Falcons responded after a tough Monday night loss to New Orleans. They were angry about that and they handled it in a constructive way. They went out and took down the Panthers right away. That gives them some momentum heading into the playoffs, and they’ll get a little time to rest up with a bye week.

What’s next: The Falcons have a first-round bye. They’ll host a divisional round playoff game in the Georgia Dome. It could be interesting if the rival New Orleans Saints come back to town. For the Panthers, owner Jerry Richardson is expected to speak publicly for the first time since he hired John Fox in 2002. It will come sometime in the next couple of days. Richardson will tell the media and his fans that general manager Marty Hurney and team president Danny Morrison will handle the majority of the coaching search. Once the list of candidates gets trimmed down, Richardson will get involved with the final decision.

Wrap-up: Lions 20, Vikings 13

January, 2, 2011
A few thoughts from the regular-season finale at Ford Field:

What it means: On the final day of the season, the Detroit Lions escaped last place in the NFC North. For what it's worth, their victory Sunday gave them the tiebreaker necessary to be considered the third-place team. The Vikings finished in last place after a tumultuous season that started with three players begging quarterback Brett Favre to return and ended with the team hiring Leslie Frazier as its permanent head coach. Frazier went 3-3 in this tenure.

FavreWatch: As expected, Favre (concussion) was inactive and didn't play. He looked spry sprinting off the field at the end of the game, but by all appearances, his 20-year career is over. We should provide the usual caveat -- unless Favre changes his mind -- but age caught up with Favre in a hurry this season. The question now becomes whether a team would want him next season, not if he wants to play.

Lions pride: The Lions finished the year on a four-game winning streak, their longest since 1999. This will only raise expectations for next season, as it should. I don't think the Lions played substantially better in December than they did at other parts of the season. They were playing better than their 2-10 record showed, and finally a few breaks started going their way. This is a team that should expect to compete for a playoff spot in 2011.

WebbWatch: Vikings rookie quarterback Joe Webb came back to earth a bit, throwing a bad red-zone interception to Lions safety Amari Spievey and missing a wide-open Lorenzo Booker for what would have been a touchdown. If nothing else, Webb proved that he has more potential as a quarterback than originally contemplated. But I don't think anyone considers him a candidate to start for the Vikings in 2011.

What's next: The Lions head into the offseason with every bit of momentum imaginable. The Vikings, with nearly two dozen players nearing the expiration of their contracts, will have to reorganize quickly under Frazier.

Wrap-up: Ravens 13, Bengals 7

January, 2, 2011
Here are some thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 13-7 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals:

What it means: With the Pittsburgh Steelers beating the Cleveland Browns, the game didn't mean much for Baltimore. But the Ravens finished the regular season with an impressive 12-4 record and split their season series with Cincinnati. For the Bengals, it stopped some late-season momentum and snapped a two-game winning streak. Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer also fell to 9-4 in his career as a starter against the Ravens.

What I liked: I thought both teams played hard in this game, despite being at different stages. Cincinnati usually plays the Ravens tough and had a chance to win it at the end. But the Bengals' final drive stalled deep in Baltimore territory. Overall, both defenses played well. Cincinnati registered four sacks and the Ravens forced and recovered three fumbles. Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson had another big game with 12 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.

What I didn't like: Neither quarterback played well. Palmer had three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble), which kept Cincinnati's offense from sustaining many scoring drives. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was accurate, but he couldn't do much damage against Cincinnati for the second time this season. He threw for 125 yards and an interception. He has four picks against the Bengals in two games this season. Look for future playoff opponents to take a look at Flacco's two meetings with the Bengals as a way to scheme against Baltimore's offense.

What's next: It's playoff time for the Ravens, who lost the AFC North via a tiebreaker and will be a wild card for the third consecutive year. We will have more on Baltimore's playoff matchup later this evening in the AFC North blog. For the Bengals, their disappointing season is over. Cincinnati entered the year with high expectations and could make major changes this week at key positions on its roster and coaching staff.